Wednesday, 21 February 2024

REGIONAL: Officials recover diver's body from surf, save stranded fishermen

SONOMA COUNTY – Sonoma County officials had a busy weekend responding to rescues on the coast, including locating the body of a diver on Sunday and later pulling two stranded fishermen to safety from a rocky outcropping where they had been stranded.

The body of a Caucasian male who had been diving near Horseshoe Cove within the Salt point State Park was found floating face down, wearing a wet suit, the Sonoma County Sheriff's Office reported Sunday.

The Sonoma County Sheriff's helicopter “Henry-1” was dispatched to the area just after 1 p.m. Sunday, according to the report from Sgt. Dave Thompson.

Ground units, including sheriff's deputies and state parks lifeguards, arrived at the scene and located the subject, who was then partially out of the water. Thompson said Henry-1 arrived over the cove and quickly configured the helicopter to perform a rescue.

Sheriff's Pilot Paul Bradley flew Tactical Flight Paramedic Scott Westrope to the subject via a 100-foot-long rescue rope, which was attached to the underside of the helicopter, Thompson reported.

Westrope contacted the unconscious subject and put a rescue-strap around him. Bradley then flew both Westrope and the subject to the top of the bluffs surrounding the cove. Once atop the bluffs, the subject was determined to be deceased, Thompson said.

He said the coroner's office is following up on the case.

Just after the Henry-1 crew was completing its mission to recover the diver's body, some hikers reported they had just seen what they believed to be a person stranded on a large rocky outcropping just south of Horseshoe Cove, Thompson said.

Henry-1 quickly lifted off and responded to the area to begin searching for the person, Thompson said. Within seconds, the helicopter was overhead and located two male subjects on top of a large rock and completely surrounded by the ocean's rough waters.

The helicopter was once again configured to perform a long-line rescue. Using the 100-foot-long rescue rope, Bradley precisely lowered Tactical Flight Deputy Chris Lomanto and Westrope to the top of the rock, where they began the rescue, Thompson said.

Westrope attached a rescue device to the first man, securing him to the helicopter, and both were then flown to the shore where State Park's Lifeguards were standing-by. Thompson said Bradley then returned to the rock where Deputy Lomanto had remained with the second man, who was trapped on a narrow shelf along the rock itself.

Lomanto then attached himself back onto the rescue long-line and was immediately flown to the second man, with both then flown to shore, Thompson said.


The men, ages 19 and 20 and both Santa Rosa residents, were uninjured and were very grateful to be safely back on the shore, Thompson reported.

He said the men had apparently gotten onto the large rock to go fishing. While on the rock, the tide had come back in, cutting them off from returning back to shore.

In addition to Sunday's rescues, Henry-1 and its crew responded to a diver in distress report in Gualala on the Mendocino Coast just before 10 a.m. Saturday, according to Thompson.

Cal Fire, State Parks lifeguards and other rescue personnel including Cal Star air ambulance also responded to the area, where Thompson said the diver was reportedly swept out to sea and had been unable to swim back to shore due to the strong rip current and heavy surf.

Henry-1 arrived on scene 22 minutes after receiving the call and found the 51-year-old Lafayette man a quarter-mile offshore. They pulled him to safety in a rescue operation that took less than two minutes. By the time of the man's rescue he had been in the water for more than an hour, Thompson said.

Thompson said the diver, who had 21 years of experience, had accurately recognized his dilemma early on and abandoned his weight belt. His dive tube and other dive gear were later stripped away from him by large waves before he was rescued.

He said the diver was cold and extremely tired but uninjured and thankful for everyone's efforts.

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